Over the weekend, Tourism Minister, Senator Birmingham reaffirmed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of a continued international travel ban for Australians on all non-essential overseas travel.
While not being drawn to any particular dates when the ban will be lifted, he did say, “December is a long time away, and it’s very hard to make predictions about what will happen then” to ABC News Breakfast.”
So where does that leave you if you have travel booked for later in 2020 or even 2021?
Not sure if your trip will be cancelled?
While you may have been planning your trip for months, it may seem frustrating that 2 months out that travel companies do not have a firm guarantee about when their operations will restart again.
As all outbound travel is being directed by Australian Government travel guidelines, travel companies are also bound by these restrictions. With updates changing daily in Australia, as well as restrictions on tourism and inbound travel overseas, travel companies are trying to be as realistic as possible on operations returning. Although COVID-19 infections are slowing in Australia, tourism companies will also want to ensure that the international destination they are operating in is also safe for their customers to travel to.
Will you get a refund?
Airlines, cruise lines, hotels and tour companies all have different policies, but are trying to be as flexible as possible.
Companies such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (and Celebrity Cruises and Azamara) have created a Cruise with Confidence Guarantee, which enables you to cancel any sailing up to 48 hours prior until 1st September 2020 and receive 100% Future Cruise Credit for sailings until the end of 2021. They are also offering refunds, minus non-refundable deposits, so as a traveller, you would be better off not losing your deposit by accepting a full credit for a future cruise.
Carnival Cruise Corporation, which includes P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America Cruise Line, have also relaxed their policies, now allowing guests to make their final payment 30 days prior instead of 75 days prior for cruises up until August 2020. You can also cancel up to 48 hours in advance and receive a Future Cruise Credit in full for a future sailing.
Touring companies have put many tours on hold until May or June, but are offering flexible conditions around travel after that date. Touring companies such as Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, APT, Travelmarvel, Travelglo and Scenic also have guarantees where you can change your mind up to 30 days prior and keep the full value for a future tour with no penalty, or with a small per person change fee. This is particularly generous of tour companies as they are often absorbing 3rd parties fees such as hotels, local tour, cruise and rail. Check with your particular touring company to see your options and ask about any charges.
For new bookings, companies such as Inspiring Vacations are offering fully refundable deposits if it’s within 28 days of your booking. There are some great future travel deals for 2021 being released to the market, so flexible deposit options like these can certainly help you secure some great travel pricing now, with no risk, for your future travel dreams.
Will insurance cover me?
If you have already booked your travel prior to COVID-19 announcements, many policies have a blanket clause that excludes paying for losses that arise from epidemics and pandemics. Whether you’re covered will come down to both when you took out the travel insurance policy and if you travelled after a travel warning was issued.
Some policies will cover medical costs, (but not financial losses due to cancelations or travel delays) only if the policy was bought prior to the pandemic being claimed a “known event” (in early February 2020). Policies such as Covermore’s, “Cancel for any Reason”, will cover your costs (subject to a maximum of 75% of the trip or $10,000) if you now wish to cancel for fear of Coronavirus, whether or not your trip has been officially cancelled. This policy had to be purchased within 48 hours of you booking your holiday and also prior to 13th March 2020, when they ceased selling the policy. Also, many tour companies such as Travelmarvel and APT have a Peace of Mind Guarantee, or Trafagar, Insight Vacations and Uniworld's Gold Seal Protection, that may also refund you.
For any bookings made from now, most insurance companies will not cover you for financial or medical losses because of the impact of coronavirus. Make sure you know your travel company’s cancellation policy well and cancel within required time frames if you do not want to lose any payments made on your travel booking. No insurance policies will cover your cancellation costs because you are worried about travelling because of coronavirus.
Most tour, cruise and travel companies can now provide you with a letter to assist you in claiming insurance on any cancellation fees, lost deposits or medical expenses.
So, should I cancel in 2020?
If you are already booked to travel in 2020, the best way to ensure you don’t lose any money is to NOT cancel prior to any announcement of your tour company/ cruise line/airline saying that they have cancelled their service. If you can cancel before the travel provider, it will usually attribute the usual cancellation fees. If you wait until you see if your trip is cancelled, this will give you the greatest bargaining power in negotiating future credits in full , sometimes with bonus onboard credits or additional cruise credits. You’ll also be keeping all of the money you paid without cancellation fees in most cases.
Got cabin fever and desperately want to book to travel later in 2020? With stricter controls by many countries and declining new cases of COVID-19, there is always the possibility of international borders opening earlier than 2021. If you see a great travel deal, take advantage of the discounted travel and also the many flexible deposit and booking options, knowing that you can cancel closer to your trip without penalty and still get an incredible deal.
That’s our insider’s tip from Travel Therapy!
For the most recent travel updates, you can visit Smart Traveller 's recommendations for your destination.
For updated policies, see below:
With around 800 different commercial airlines flying globally, one of the most popular questions from our travel community is “Can I get a refund on my flight?”
Whether or not you can get credit vouchers or refunds varies between airlines and depends on the fare you bought.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that airline tickets can be booked in different seat classes and come with different Condition of Carriage (aka “rules” to the rest of us), so ask yourself these questions-
Did I book a Refundable Ticket?
Usually the more you pay for your airline ticket, the more flexibility it offers in coming to changes and refunds. Check your original terms and conditions as you may be pleasantly surprised to find your ticket has a refundable option, even without any coronavirus restrictions.
Often refundable tickets won’t automatically give you a full refund on the entire amount you have paid and most have a refund fee that is charged by the airline that can be up to a few hundred dollars on international tickets.
Credit card fees and some carrier imposed surcharges and taxes are not usually refunded.
Domestic Flights within Australia
For flights due to departure by 30 June 2020, you can rebook or claim a credit voucher, regardless of the type of ticket you bought. Virgin will waive cancellation and change fees, but you’ll need to pay the fare difference if your booking class is not available on the date you wish to rebook.
For flights departing after 30 June 2020, if you wish to cancel, normal fare rules and cancellation fees apply to your booking. You can see the Virgin Fare Rules here.
Speak with your agent, or you can manage your booking options through the Virgin website here
If your flight has been cancelled, Qantas or your Travel Agent will call you directly to run through your flight credit or refund options. The airline is offering refunds to some customers on flights that they have already cancelled.
If you have a Qantas ticket booked for travel before 31 July 2020, you can receive a flight credit valid for booking and travel by 31 December 2021 and any change fees will be waived. You have until 30 April 2020 to take up this offer and an action it directly online at their Manage my Booking site.
However, we would expect if government warnings are extended, Qantas will also extend an offer of credit to coincide. Currently if you are travelling past 31 July 2020 and you wish to change your flights, normal change and cancellation fees will apply. So unless you are nearing a higher cancellation fee date, we recommend you do not change your tickets until announcements are made close to your time of travel that may see you offer full credits instead of paying for cancellation fees.
If you are due to travel on a Classic Reward Flight using Qantas Frequent Flyer Points before 31 July 2020, you can cancel and get a full refund of points, as well as any taxes, fees and carrier charges refunded.
Currently Jetstar are offering a credit voucher on all travel, domestic and international, that is currently booked until 31 July 2020. You have until 30 April 2020 to accept this credit towards your next trip. The voucher has to be used in one booking (i.e. you can’t have booked a $1000 Bali trip and now use it on 5 x $200 domestic trips) and if the airfare has increased on your next booking, you will be required to be the fare difference. You can read all their updated terms and conditions on Jetstar’s Compensation Page.
How are International Airfares Different?
International airfares can be extremely complex with complicated taxes, fuel surcharges and other costs involved.
Each airfare consists of a base airfare and extras. You will need to check if the price you have paid for additional amenities such as seating preferences, meals and increased baggage allowance are offered within the flight credit or refund policy. Note only do they differ by carrier, but carriers are updating their policies daily.
Every international airline differs in their cancellation policies. Many, such as Emirates, are offering future travel credits for use up to 24 months. Some are allowing a change of destination, some are not. Some are allowing a routing change, while others are enforcing the same route on your new flight.
Extra bonuses can also be available. For example, Etihad are also offering Bonus Miles to frequent flyers on changed booking.
Will my Insurance Cover the Loss?
Pandemic clauses written into most insurance policies mean travellers will more than likely not be covered for the cost of cancelled flights or accommodation, transfers or any other combinations. Before taking any action, it is always a good idea to check through your policy or check with your insurance provider to see if they are offer any assistance.
There are 2 clauses that may help with insurance refunds. Considering the Federal Government's new Level 4 restrictions on international and domestic travel, some insurance companies are covering cancellations. Also, if you have insurance such as Covermore’s “Cancel for Any Reason” policy, you may be able to claim up to 75% of the non-refundable portion of your travel, up to a maximum of $10,000.
However, if you have paid for your travel with a credit card, you may check with your credit card provider if they will offer a refund due to the service/product not being actualised.
It's clear to see our Australian carriers are implementing as many cost cutting activities as possible in order to reduce expenses and keep flying with today’s announcement that both Qantas and Virgin will cut inflight meals, drinks, Wi-Fi and entertainment. Both carriers are in talks with the government to offer financial aid, which can only benefit long term travel in Australia. Nobody wants to see the return of the monopolistic market of the pre-1990 unregulated airline industry in Australia. It’s clear that the more travellers that accept a flight voucher option, will benefit the whole country and our airline options long term.
If you do have concerns about your specific flight, contact your Travel Agent who made the booking or the airline directly and they can run through the options available to you.
For the most up to date terms and conditions on your airline ticket, click through on the below airlines:
Air New Zealand
All Nippon Airways American Airlines
Cathay Pacific Airways
China Eastern Airlines
Delta Air Lines
South African Airways
A Future Cruise Credit (FCC), or Future Cruise Certificate, is mostly used to compensate cruise travellers for things like cancelled voyages, cruises that have been cut short or other. It’s used like a store credit or gift card, instead of receiving a refund, and is usually non-refundable and non-transferable to anybody else. It often comes with additional benefits to entice you to use the FCC over a refund and can often deliver you great savings off your next cruise.
It’s often confused with a Future Cruise Program, which is a benefit extended to people when they’re onboard a current cruise that offers them onboard credit when putting a deposit on their future cruise. However the two are very different as the Future Cruise Credit is compensation, where as the Future Cruise Program is an additional benefit.
The amount of your FCC is usually based on the base cruise fare that you have paid, less taxes, fees, onboard expenditure, shore excursion or upgrades (like WiFi and Drinks Packages).
How Can I Use my Future Cruise Credit?
You’ll know if you’ve received a FCC usually via an email from the cruise line or your travel agent. It normally takes a few weeks, however in the current environment with all cruise lines delaying departures by at least 30 days, the processing may take a little longer. When it is issued, the email will also advise you of the date the credit expires.
The cruise passenger owns the FCC, and you can use it directly with the cruise line or through any travel agent you wish to use.
What Can a Future Cruise Credit Not be Used for?
It can be used towards the base fare of any future cruise, but cannot be used to pay for:
If you already have another cruise you previously booked, you can also use it towards that cruise. However it cannot be redeemed to re-purchase the same sailing where the original booking was cancelled.
Can I get a Refund Instead?
Cruise line are currently extending generous new cancellation policies, with cruisers able to cancel even up to 48 hours prior to departure for cruises that are still scheduled to travel.
With the current temporary cancellation policies due to COVID-19 cancellations, you will normally receive a Future Cruise Credit in the amount of whatever the cancellation fees would normally be. The remainder is refunded to your credit card or the original form of payment.
For example, if your cancellation penalities are 75%, you will receive 75% of the total cruise paid as a Future Cruise Credit (this would normally have been forfeited as a cancellation fee), and the other 25% as a refund. If your cancellation penalties are 100%, you’ll receive 100% of the total cruise paid as a Future Cruise Credit.
Top Tips for Using Future Cruise Credits